The bike’s wheel spun around like the night sky on a time-lapse, sparkling and hissing inaudibly.
The fallen man was in a state of shock. A few vegetable vendors rushed to him and helped him get up as he winced in pain. They checked the bike and towed it up.
It was a bright day, the sun almost above the head in Yelahanka. The tempo behind a relatively small motor bike rammed into a couple of oddly driven vehicles, including the bike. From a corner, a teenager had zipped away like a dragonfly on wheels.
The market was abuzz with activity, those driving motor vehicles were navigating through the crevices of other people’s apathy. The rider ahead or next to them was too slow to tolerate. The push and pull often produced fumes of all kind.
The man in his 50s got up and lunged forward to slap the auto-rickshaw driver. The insult was too much to bear.
The rickshaw driver tried to defend himself, muttering angrily.
“You should have known better! In this traffic… such a narrow lane!!”
The rickshaw puller left his wheel and caught the man’s collar. “What colourful language do I use for you, my … ? You are quick to slap me, can’t fix your brakes?”
“Idiot!” the rickshaw puller cried, “you beat people because you fell? Why didn’t you catch that teenager? He was driving everywhere!! Have you grown old to run after him? Idiot! Are you not a son of a mother?” Peppered with expletives, he cursed his luck as people pulled them apart and helped him reach his seat in the rickshaw.
The 50-year-old man shook in anger. Quite distraught by the sight of his pooja material in bag getting strewn all over the place and tomatoes rolling without a turn, he sat on the sidewalk and drank a glass of water that somebody offered him. His heart was racing, he thought the fall had notched up his blood pressure levels to a new level from their morning count. What does it mean to grow old, he wondered: Not being able to handle the self or the others? How bad can it get to fall off your own vehicle when you are plotting pleasant events in your head? Some idiot causes it and you just put up with it?
The man didn’t know how long he sat there. People left him to his thoughts, rubbed on his back, checked that he did not sustain injuries, gave a bottle of water and moved to their tasks at hand. The market can spare only so much time for any one person; or for dogs or cows.
A teenager boy who zipped away like a dragonfly earlier, came back and sat next to him. He mumbled: “I’m really sorry, sir. If you think it was my fault…” His words gently trailed off. The man looked at him. The boy continued. “I had a parcel to deliver and I was late. The owner was screaming at me as he had to leave for the airport. I rushed madly, didn’t notice anyone, really! The auto-rickshaw driver didn’t make a mistake, sir. It was my fault. I think.” He hesitantly folded his hands in a gesture of apology.
The man gently nodded. He surveyed the busy road and saw auto-rickshaws plying back and forth, their drivers seriously focused on the road ahead. People went about their rushed affairs like a grain-mill pounding time into flour.
He turned to the boy. “So, what do you study?” “Nursing, sir.”
“What is this courier service for?”
“Pocket money sir! My mother refused to give me any.”
“What does she do?”
“A nurse, sir. In a hospital.”
The man nodded.
“So, how do you treat a man who has fallen off his motorbike?”
“Hmm,” he hesitated. “Look for any injuries, if the heart is fine, if there is any palpitation etc etc…sir.”
“What do you think of my condition now?”
The boy studied him. “You seem fine sir. We are having this conversation, which is good.”
“You have blood pressure?”
“Why, I can’t have it?”
“No, no—I don’t mean it that way. You look pretty calm and collected, sir.
“Yes, sir.” He hesitated. “I would think more about the auto-rickshaw driver. Who knows, he could have another accident today… might need an anti-depressant. He is the aggrieved party here, sir.” The boy was remarkably candid for such a frail body that he carried. His head looked big, the 50-year-old man thought.
The teenager went to a nearby shop and bought what he thought was wasted from the man’s bag. He arranged things, placed the bag on the bike and turned to the man, who got up and took a close look at the vehicle.
The teenager paused for a second. He quickly ran to a nearby shop and came back like a carom- board coin.
“Here. For you, sir.”
“Dry fruits? Why? I don’t think I can have them.”
“Happy festivities, sir. A man who has fallen deserves a pat on the back. You got up, that’s the point, sir.”
“Give this to the auto-rickshaw-driver, not me. As you said, he is the aggrieved party!”
“Don’t worry. I will catch him and extend your greetings. He is my father, sir.”
The mid-day sun got sharper and more intense.
Meanwhile, another tempo driver began to reverse his vehicle relaying a funny tune and cussing relentlessly.